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C'est la vie! (Le sens de la fete) - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
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C'est la vie! (Le sens de la fete)
SIFF's capsule summary: "Providing a sober, chic, and elegant wedding party in a 17th century French palace proves to be a tall order for a beleaguered caterer and his mishap-prone staff in the latest lovable French farce from the filmmaking team behind The Intouchables.
    "This is an expertly assembled, tartly played and hugely enjoyable romp from directors Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache." Boyd van Hoeij — The Hollywood Reporter" (France, 2017, 115 minutes)
SIFF link: C'est la vie!

Catering business Max Angély (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is considering selling his business so he can retire. The opening scene shows us one of the many things he that annoys him about his business: a couple planning their wedding wants a luxurious event, but they want to cut the cost just a bit, or maybe more than just a bit. His second-in-command Adèle (Eye Haidara) gives everyone moments of panic with her jokes. The regular DJ is out sick, and last-minute replacement Etienne "DJ James" (Gilles Lellouche) is a egotistical jerk who seems to think the crowd is there to see him. The photographer Guy (Jean-Paul Rouve) longs for the days of film, and often slacks off and nibbles food meant for the guests, and piles lots of his work onto his high school intern Bastien (Gabriel Naccache), who is also the only person who can pronounce the eight-syllable Tamil name of one of the staff's South Asian kitchen staff. Adèle has done her friend Samy (Alban Ivanov) a favor by vouching for him, even though his only service experience is in fast food. A senior waiter, Julien (Vincent Macaigne) immediately sees through Samy, who further annoys his French-language formality with his malapropisms. The worst-kept secret on the set is that Josiane (Suzanne Clément) and Max are having an affair, but she's annoyed at him and taunts him by flirting with Patrice (Kévin Azaïs), a young moonlighting cop.

Also in the huge ensemble (with roles I mostly don't remember) are Seb (William Lebghil), Roshan (Manmathan Basky), Nabil (Khereddine Ennasri), Bernard (Nicky Marbot), Kathir (Manickam Sritharan), and Nico (Jackee Toto). Near the end, a mysterious observer of the festivities (Grégoire Bonnet) appears.

Of course the wedding wouldn't happen without the wedding party. Although weddings are stereotypically all about the bride, this wedding seems to be all about the ridiculous groom Pierre (Benjamin Lavernhe). His mother (Hélène Vincent) shows elegance throughout, and the bride Héléna (Judith Chemla) barely plays a part other than fending off the affection of an old boyfriend who happens to be part of the staff.

9 Excellent The film was written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano. (The Hollywood Reporter says that Jean-Pierre Bacri added some uncredited writing.) The writing, directing, and editing (by Dorian Rigal-Ansous) had to juggle the huge cast, and somehow gave just about everyone something interesting to do, while still keeping most of the focus on the central characters. Keeping a cast this large interesting without getting confusing is an impressive accomplishment. And the comedy is funny throughout; the fairly large audience was laughing pretty much all the way through. Excellent work.

The subtitle writer helped the film too, carefully translating Samy's malapropisms and Julien's indignant corrections. Obviously that only applies to the English subtitled version, but it's not often that the subtitles are done this well. (But how is it that practically every subtitle writer uses "alright" instead of "all right"? I probably sound like Julien making that complaint.)

Most of the acting is excellent too. I particularly admired Eye Haidara, who brought a lot of life to Adèle, in addition to consistently hitting her comedy notes. Jean-Paul Rouve brought strong comedy to the photographer, but was weaker on the dramatic side. Jean-Pierre Bacri was excellent in the central role. And Benjamin Lavernhe elevated his groom character beyond caricature.

The location was beautiful and fit the tone of the over-the-top wedding well. The costumes and props were excellent. The music was excellent.

This film did pretty much everything just right. I rate it excellent.

Languages: French and a little Tamil, with English subtitles.

Rating: I don't think this film has a US rating (yet), but I'd guess it would rate a "PG-13", unless there was something that I overlooked.

Screening: 2 pm, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a fairly large SIFF press screening crowd, over 100, about 285 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: none.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteer "J" provided announcements.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 73 films (46 features, 27 shorts), 49 time slots, 5 parties. ("J": only three parties, and 20 shorts, and two fewer films because she stayed home today.)

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